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Coade stone

  Coade stone was a ceramic material that has been described as an artificial stone. It was first created by Mrs Eleanor Coade (Elinor Coade, 1733-1821), and sold commercially from 1769 to 1833. The building boom in London, at this time, led to a high demand for ornate features to decorate and adorn brick-built Georgian houses. The showrooms of Mrs Coade's Artificial Stone Company, in Westminster Bridge Road, provided a huge array of 'off the shelf' solutions for builders and architects, ranging from small keystones for over front doors to corner and window features and almost entire façades. The factory was in Lambeth, London, where the Royal Festival Hall now stands.

The company initially did very well, boasting an illustrious list of customers such as George III and quite a few members of the English nobility (Wendy Moonan remarks in the New York Times that Mrs. Coade sold to "a Debrett's full of English lords and Dukes."). Despite the presence of Coade stone at several prominent sites, after the first Mrs. Coade's death in 1821, her daughter and relatives (who inherited the firm) apparently did not do as well. The firm went bankrupt in 1833.


The material

Coade Stone is a form of Stoneware (vitrified ceramic). Mrs Coade’s own name for her products was Lithodipyra, which was a word constructed from ancient Greek words, which she strung together, meaning stone/twice/fire (λιθος/δις/πυρα). Its colours varied between light grey to light yellow (or even beige) and its surface is best described as having a matte finish.

The ease with which the product could be moulded to complex shapes made it ideal for large statues, sculptures and sculptural façades. Moulds were often kept for many years, for repeated use. One-offs were clearly much more expensive to produce, as they would have to carry the entire cost of creating the mould.

One of the more striking features of Coade is its incredible weathering resistance, which is better than that of most stone in the harsh London environment. Thus, examples of Coade stonework have survived very well; prominent examples listed above have survived without any apparent wear and tear even after 150 years.

As a material, Coade stone was replaced by the much cheaper Portland cement (an artificial material) and it appears that it was largely phased out by the 1840s.

The formula

The 'recipe' for Coade stone is, contrary to popular belief, still in existence, and it can still be produced. Rather than being based on cement (as concrete articles are), it is a ceramic material. Its manufacture required special skills: especially careful control and skill in kiln firing, over days. This skill is even more remarkable when the potential variability of kiln temperatures in those times is considered. Mrs Coade's factory was the only really successful manufacturer.

The formula used was:

  • 10% of grog (see below)
  • 5-10% of crushed flint
  • 5-10% fine quartz (to reduce shrinkage)
  • 10% crushed soda lime glass.
  • 60-70% Ball clay from Dorset and Devon.

The 'grog' which was used was made up of finely crushed fired items, such as pitchers (ware that has been fired but rejected to the presence of faults). This was also referred to as "fortified clay" which was then inserted (after kneading) into a kiln which would fire the material at a temperature of 2012 degrees Fahrenheit for somewhere over four days. [1]

Mrs Coade

    Mrs Coade was a resident of Lyme Regis, Dorset, living in Belmont House in that town. The pavement (sidewalk) outside the Philpot Museum, Lyme Regis, is inlaid with decorative examples of Coade stone, in the shape of Ammonites, set within its surface. They have proved durable enough to have survived the wear of myriad footfalls, over the years. Belmont House appropriately carries examples of the work on its façade.

Example of Use

One easily seen example of its use is the statue of the Lion at the south end of Westminster Bridge in central London. This was the icon on the old Red Lion Brewery, that existed on the Lambeth bank of the River Thames.


The statue was removed from on top of the brewery when it was demolished in 1950 to make way for the South Bank Site of the Festival of Britain in 1951. The Lion was placed at street level for all to see. When it was removed, the initials of the sculptor and the date, 24 May 1837, were discovered under one of its paws. From the photograph, it can be seen that the fine details still remain even after 170 years of London's corrosive atmosphere, which was caused by the heavy use of coal throughout the 19th century and the first half of the 20th century. The red paint was removed from the surface of the lion so that the Coade stone could be seen easily.

Other examples

  • Nelson's Memorial at Burnham Thorpe
  • Britannia Monument in Great Yarmouth
  • Nelson's Pediment on the Old Royal Naval College, Greenwich, regarded by the Coade workers as the finest of all their work
  • Twinings' first ever (and still operating) shop's frontispiece, in the Strand, London opposite the Royal Courts of Justice, rediscovered under soot after a century
  • Schomberg House on Pall Mall, London
  • Captain Bligh’s tomb (in the churchyard of St Mary's Lambeth)
  • Lord Hill's Column, Shrewsbury, Shropshire
  • Rio de Janeiro's zoo entrance

Coade stone was also used at Buckingham Palace (though in the rear section so not open to the public), Castle Howard, St. Paul's Cathedral, Brighton Palace and the sculptural reliefs above the entrance to the Imperial War Museum. According to BBC research, over 650 pieces are still in existence world-wide.[1]


  • ^  "A Couple of Dogs that Never Need Feeding, And Other Garden Gems", by Wendy Moonan; pg. B36 of the New York Times, 28 April 2006

See also

  • Stoneware


  1. ^ BBC TV documentary series "Local Heroes", episode "South-East", 2004
This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Coade_stone". A list of authors is available in Wikipedia.
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